Saturday 10 January – Blashford Lake

There was some cause for concern en-route as the weather was less than promising, but, thankfully, it improved upon arrival. Nine members paraded, though initially going to the ‘wrong’ car park, one car load saw a Long- tailed Duck, which had disappeared by the time we all looked later. The feeder outside the visitor centre was busy with, amongst other species, Tits, Siskins, Chaffinches, and at least two Nuthatches. We walked to the Woodland Hide where the feeder was really busy, again mainly with four species of Tit (including a Long-tailed with a ring on its leg) and four species of Finches, though there was no sign of the hoped for Brambling or Redpolls. We moved on to South Hide at Ivy Lake where we saw a number of the more common water birds, including Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe, but our attention was then drawn to a fly-by Great White Egret. Our next stop was the north hide at the same lake, where a Chiffchaff was flitting around, and Teal was added to the list. The Great White Egret re-appeared and gave good views as it circled quite near to the hide, and landed just out of sight. After leaving the hide we walked up and down a path that had recently held a Firecrest, but had noluck with that and had to settle for a couple of Goldcrests. As we had been making our way around the hides and paths, a flock of about twenty five flighty and vocal Siskins flew into the trees over our heads a number of times, but despite close examination, we couldn’t pick out any Redpolls amongst them. We crossed the road to Ibsley Water, where a Ring-billed Gull had been reported, and a couple of gulls were picked out from the quite distant mass as being possibles. Discussion took place, but, none were definitely nailed as RBG. However, well worth seeing were singletons of Bewick’s Swan, Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, and a few each of Pintail and Goosander.
Next, we drove the short distance to Milkham Inclosure where we hoped to find the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen recently. No sign of it, but, with the help of a local birder, there was compensation in the form of a Ring Tail Hen Harrier, which flew along a ridge in the middle distance. Also of note here were two Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, Redwing, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker and a Treecreeper, which was one of at least five seen during the day. Our last stop was at Blackwater Arboretum, where there is a small, but well established, Hawfinch roost site. Local birders also arrived to see them, but on this occasion it may be that the birds had got there first and were sitting tight in the fading light. Not all was lost here though, as we had seen a male Crossbill in the car park. Also present were two male Bullfinches. On the walk back to the car, we heard a Tawny Owl calling very clearly. A total of 59 species were noted.
Thanks to the nine attendees for making it an enjoyable day, and especially to Louise for leading. Trevor Ford